Preparing to sell your home is a process, to say the least. There are lots of micro-decisions to make before taking the big leap that ends with a sign on your front lawn!
For families, these “minor” decisions can often feel anything but small. Everyone has an opinion and a stake in the results.
- How far can you live from work?
- Are the kids able or willing to switch schools?
- Do you need to be closer to (or farther from!) family?
- What type of home do you want next time? City? Country? Condo?
Your family will need to discuss these and a hundred more questions before pulling up roots and relocating.
Besides the conversations about personal needs, wants, and adjustments, there are some practical steps you are wise to take before listing your home for sale, too. Taking care of a few preliminary things can help prepare for a smooth selling and moving experience.
Before you finalize your decision to sell, we suggest you do the following things:
FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU WANT TO GO
This is probably the easiest step – and maybe the most fun. It can involve some individual and family brainstorming, a little daydreaming, and maybe some math. (If Dad drives 110km/hr, and we move 25 km farther away from Toronto…how many months will it take him to find a new job that lets him work from home?)
Very likely, you already have an idea where you want to go. For many people, desire for a change in location is the driving motivation to move in the first place.
Do you want to stay in your neighbourhood, but find a bigger (or smaller) house?
Do you need to get out of the city? Or closer to it?
Are you moving for a job transfer?
Is it time to retire and move south?
The goals of home sellers vary widely. For this reason, it’s good to do a little research into the neighbourhood, community, city, or country you are considering for your next home. This will give you a solid idea of what you’ll personally need in order to get there.
If your move involves an area that is completely new to you, do some searching online. Find local blogs, newspapers, and other sources that can help you educate yourself about the place. Visit in person at different times of day or different times of year, if that would help. Then find a local realtor who can help you understand the local real estate and/or rental market so that you can prepare for the cost of living.
GET FAMILIAR WITH YOUR CURRENT NEIGHBOURHOOD
Unless you have been keeping an eagle-eye on the real estate activity in the area where you live now, you may be (pleasantly) surprised at the value of your home. This is especially true if you’ve lived there for a long time!
Before you sell, try to get a sense of what kind of activity is happening around you.
- What are buyers in your area looking for?
- What do they compete for?
- How much are houses selling for?
- How does your home compare to recent sales?
- What can you reasonably expect a buyer to pay for your home?
Getting the most up-to-date information will help you plan for your move. If you’re like most people, your down payment on the next place is tied up in your current home.
Ask a local realtor to set you up on an automatic neighbourhood search. You will be able to see homes that come up for sale around you. View pictures and video online to see how they compare to yours. You’ll be able to keep track of how quickly properties sell, and for how much.
This knowledge will allow you to budget for expenses and help you to plan for your next purchase.
GET YOUR DOCUMENTS TOGETHER
The dreaded paperwork involved in a house purchase or sale is always a bit of a nuisance. It’s important, though, since missing documents or outdated records can threaten the success of a sale in the worst case scenarios.
There is much you can do before listing your house for sale to get your ‘ducks in a row’ before the time pressure of a pending transaction kicks in.
Here is a list of documents that should be within reach at the point of selling a property:
- Survey: If you have one, be sure it’s available. In Ontario, you cannot be forced to provide an up-to-date survey, but any survey in your possession can be made available to potential buyers and lawyers.
- Warranties: Any existing and/or transferable warranties should be kept with your selling file.
- Lease agreements: If you have a rental contract for a HVAC system, hot water tank, water softener/filtration system, alarm rental, etc., these will be of interest to buyers and must be dealt with before closing.
- Permits/Proof of professionally done renovations: Have you done extensive work to your home? Have the paperwork handy! Buyers always appreciate, and often pay more for a house that has been renovated professionally and legally.
- Condo documents: If you can, offer an up-to-date status certificate with all the details about your condominium, including the financial state of accounts, and record of recent improvements.
- Tax bill: Having proof of your taxes paid and payable speeds up the listing process. Your bill will also show whether there are any unusual or temporary levies being charged.
- Utility bills: Although these are not necessary for the sale, buyers regularly ask about estimated utility costs, and having this information can be very helpful.
- Mortgage Paperwork: Now is a good time to take out the file from your most recent re-finance or mortgage renewal. Take a look and see what type of penalties or fees, if any, you will be charged if you sell and break your mortgage. If it is early in your term, and the cost is too steep, this might affect your decision to sell.
- Government issued ID: A driver’s license is ideal, or a passport. Realtors are required by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada [FINTRAC] to verify the identity of their clients. If you do not have either of these two documents, be prepared to show other proof of identity that is acceptable to this Federal Agency.
- Divorce/ Separation Agreement: The Family Law Act applies to the sale of any matrimonial home, that is, a home that was the primary dwelling of a married couple during their marriage. When selling this property, regardless of whose name is on title, it requires the consent of both spouses unless ownership has been settled with a formal separation or divorce agreement.
- Death Certificate: If anyone who appears on title has passed away, it would be wise to have a copy of the death certificate, along with proof of settlement of their estate.
Once you’ve done all this prep work, you may find you need a little break between this and the next step: Preparing your house for market!